The American Gold Eagle vs. Gold Buffalo Coin: Key Differences Investors Need to Know

The American Gold Eagle and Gold Buffalo are two gold bullion coins USA-made, denominated in troy ounces. The American Gold Eagle is a legal tender in the United States and can be used in any state. It is sourced primarily from US government gold reserves.

The Gold Buffalo coins are available in private non-US coin collections but cannot be used as legal tender anywhere outside the USA. According to the US Mint, it is illegal for the Gold Buffalo Coins to be used as legal tender outside the United States. These two coins are made mainly for investors to choose which Gold is preferred.

The American Gold Eagle

The American Gold Eagle, since 1986, has been made of 99.99% pure gold. The US Mint offers coins in four sizes: 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz, and 1 oz. They have been made in a proof condition every year and a bullion version every year except for 1996 (proof only) and 2001 (bullion only). There are also unique issues that feature different designs or are limited in mintage.

The History

The American Gold Eagle started in 1986 as the first gold coin of the United States. The first coins were minted for a price of $50,000. It was initially called the "American Gold Eagle" and not "American Eagle" to emphasize that it was an American coin, not a worldwide one like Canada used to do of its Gold Maple Leaf series.

The Design

The obverse side of the gold American Eagle coins depicts the bust of Liberty, which is a neoclassical statue designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi that was initially meant to have been part of an enormous monument. The Liberty head was originally designed with just the face, but then they decided to add rays from behind her. The reason behind this change is unknown. The reverse of the coins features an eagle carrying an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left talon.

The Purity

The American Gold Eagle coin is made of .99999 fine Gold, 99.99% pure. Given that the purity of gold is measured in carats, 24 karat means that the Gold used to mint these coins contains 24 parts per 24,000 parts gold and is 99.9% pure. It will have a fineness of 999.0 because there are 1000 grains in every troy ounce.

The Gold Buffalo

The Gold Buffalo is a series of American bullion coins that have been produced since 1986. Senator Robert Dole initially proposed it as a 50th-anniversary commemoration of the 1968 US Mint bill, which authorized the minting of an alloyed version of the American Eagle series. The coins being made of a gold alloy instead of pure Gold also constitutes the reason behind its name, as bison are commonly found in North America.

The History

The Gold Buffalo coins were first minted in 1986. They come in 5 sizes: 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz, 1 oz, and 1 kilo. They are available with a Proof finish every year and a Bullion finish every year except for 2001. In 2008 they were also made available in a proof line as part of the privy release program.

The Design

The obverse side is struck with James Earle Fraser's "Indian Head" design (the entire design), which was part of the inspiration to create the original Buffalo nickel. The reverse has an American Bison standing on a mound of dirt with a few blades of grasses on it, and next to him, there's an olive branch and four sharp arrows. The coin is made of 1 oz of .999 fine Gold, making it 24K.

The Purity

The purity of the Gold Buffalo is .9999 fine gold (24 karats), which would make it mil-spec bullion. The purity of the American Eagle 1 oz Gold coin is only .99999 fine Gold, which is 99.9% pure. The Gold Buffalo coin is 99.99% pure gold, the standard the Perth Mint uses to measure their coins (oz Au over Au).

Key differences between these Gold Bullion Coins

History Comparison

The Gold Buffalo coins were minted first in 1986 by the US Mint. The Gold Eagle coins were minted in 1986, as well. The Gold Buffalo coins are available as bullion, and they can be bought at any time.

Design Comparison

The American Eagle and Gold Buffalo coins have a lot of similarities in their design and are made of Gold. There are also a lot of differences since the US Mint produces one for legal tender, and another is produced for bullion purposes by a private mint (Perth mint).

Purity Comparison

The American Eagle 1 oz Gold coin contains 99.9% pure gold, while the Gold Buffalo coin is made of 24K gold which is 99.99% pure. Both coins are .9999 in fineness, but since the American Eagle weighs 1 oz, it is heavier than the 1 oz Gold Buffalo coin.

Here's a Quick Look Comparison Chart

Quick Look Comparison

Gold American Eagle

  • Value $50
  • Date Released September 7th, 1986
  • Fineness 24 karats (.9999)
  • Weight (oz) 1.09375 oz. avoirdupois ounces
  • Diameter (in) 1.287 in. or 34 mm
  • Thickness (in) 0.118 in., or 3 mm

Gold American Buffalo

  • Value $50
  • Date Released March 17, 1986
  • Fineness 24 karats (.9999)
  • Weight (oz) 7.91416 oz. avoirdupois ounces
  • Diameter (in) 1.8715 in., or 47 mm
  • Thickness (in) 0.118 in.

What You Need to Know as an Investor

Given that the Gold Buffalo has a higher purity than the Gold Eagle, it would be better for investors looking for pure Gold. The Gold Eagle is for you if you want to stack Gold as much as possible but would also like to stick with the US-issued coins. 

The Gold Buffalo isn't available in smaller sizes, so if you were looking to invest in smaller amounts of Gold to save the delivery fees, you would be better off with the American Eagle. The Gold Buffalo is also offered in non-confiscatable quantities, an attractive feature to investors worried about a changing political climate taking their assets away.

Where to Buy American Eagle Gold & Buffalo Gold Coins

Buffalo Gold coins are purchased on the United States Mint's website. You can also find Gold buffalo coin listings on eBay by searching for "gold buffalo" or "gold buffalo" on Google. American Eagle coins are available on the United States Mint's website, or you can purchase them on eBay.


Bottom Line

Since both coins are made of an alloy containing gold, the purity is the most significant difference between them. The Gold Buffalo coin has higher purity, making it better for investors who prefer to stack as much Gold as possible without additional risks. It also has a higher weight, which can benefit you if you keep your holdings close to 24K.

About the Author

Since 2008, Savary Gold has been one of the world's leading mining exploration & investment resources for gold and precious metals.'s mission is to provide proven insider knowledge resources about retirement investing to its readers to make informed investment decisions and better manage risk.

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